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Bend teen makes U.S. Parapan team


This summer, 20 teen Paralympians will head north to Toronto in August to represent the red, white and blue in the 2015 Parapan American Games. One of those teens lives right here on the High Desert.

Casandra Shaffer has been working toward this moment for quite some time now. At just 15 years old, she’s one of 13 girls nationwide who will represent the USA at this summer’s Parapan Am Games.

And you shouldn’t bet against her, because her razor sharp focus gives her an edge in the water.

“It’s just kind of blank for me,” Casandra said Friday. “I just kind of clear my head, and at that point I just feel like it’s just me and the water and nothing else. There’s no clock, no competitors, no nothing.”

That hasn’t always been the case for Casandra, though. She randomly decided to pick up swimming at age 8 after attending many of her younger sisters’ practices.

“Wasn’t very competitive, was just like, ‘I’ll try it out,'” said Shane Bennett, Casandra’s coach. “And just by year by year by year, she’s gotten more competitive, and now is just as hungry as she could be.”

Casandra said, “I kind of just got bored over there watching, and so I’m just like, ‘Forget it, I want in.’

Fast-forward seven years and some change, and you have one of the best teen Paralympic swimmers in the nation — thanks in large part to a relentless work ethic and commitment.

“They came out with the World team announcements this past week, and we didn’t get that, so the Parapan team was the next one — and she got it,” said Jody Shaffer, Casandra’s mother. “It was just so exciting. I’m so excited for her and all her accomplishments she’s had up until this point.”

Casandra is set to go against the best of the best this summer in Toronto at the Parapan Am Games, and is hopeful she’ll do well.

“I know I have some strong teammates, and hopefully we’ll do really well against the other people around the world,” Casandra said.

But like any competitor, she most likely has her sights set on a gold medal.

“She has certain girls that she wants to beat,” Bennett said. “She knows their names, she knows their times, and that’s who she’s chasing. I think she’s got a good chance to go out and beat them.”

Swimming does run in the family. Jody took home the bronze medal in the 1992 Paralympic Games in Barcelona in the 100-meter breast stroke.

Before Casandra competes in Toronto, she’s heading to Colorado in June to compete at the Olympic Training Center.

Learn more about the Toronto event here:

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